'We are so sorry': NBTC group owner apologises for Kuwait fire tragedy, denies overcrowding

The founder of NBTC group KG Abraham said the company will give Rs 8 lakh each to the families of the deceased and will ensure that the families receive four years’ salaries of the victims.
KG Abraham, founder of NBTC group turns emotional during a news conference in Kochi
KG Abraham, founder of NBTC group turns emotional during a news conference in KochiPhoto | T P Sooraj, EPS

KOCHI: The founder of the multi-billion-dollar NBTC Group, K G Abraham, offered a public apology on Saturday after 49 workers, including 42 Indians, died in a fire in its six-storey building in Kuwait, but stressed that there was no overcrowding in the apartments or irregularities in the building permits.

"We are sorry. We are so sorry. I was crying at home hearing about the tragic accident. These are our people. They are like our families. Some of their families have worked with us for 25–27 years," Abraham told a news conference here.

"We have not done any wrong. We believe things did not happen because of our mistake. But, still, we will take the responsibility. We cannot say this is not our responsibility. They were working with us. They built our company. They are our family."

Denying reports that there was overcrowding, Abraham, who founded the NBTC Group in 1977, said the six-storey building had a total of 24 apartments (four on each floor). Each apartment has three rooms. Managers would occupy a room, and two engineers would share a room.

"International law allows us to provide accommodation for four persons per room, or four cubic meters/person. In many of our rooms, there were not even three people," said the 70-year-old businessman. "Never, never. There was no overcrowding," he said.

Regarding the cause of the devastating accident, Abraham said as per the information available to him, the fire broke out following a short circuit from the security cabin of the building.

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He said the NBTC Group, which is into construction, manufacturing, oil & natural gas, and retail, will offer Rs 8 lakh to each of the families of the deceased. Further, there is insurance coverage for all of its employees. This will ensure that the families receive four years' salaries from the deceased.

"We will also provide jobs to the dependents of the families in our group as per their educational qualifications," he said.

Abraham also rubbished reports that he fled Kuwait immediately after the tragic accident.

"I left Kuwait on June 7 to attend the marriage of my close relative on June 9. I also attended a public function in Thiruvananthapuram. The accident happened on June 12," he said, adding that he was admitted to a hospital after he had health issues hearing about the shocking accident.

Asked about the investigation about the accident, he said, "Obviously, there will be investigations. What was the mistake? How did it happen? All these things will be looked into. This was not an old building. But not a new building either. It was a building that had a central air conditioning facility. The accident happened around 3.30–4 am. There would not have been any casualties if the fire had broken out during the day. Many of the victims were sleeping when the accident happened."

Abraham said the security guard of the building had been booked following the fire accident.

Abraham, who also owns Kochi's Crowne Plaza hotel, said 31 injured persons are undergoing treatment at the government hospital in Kuwait. "Their condition is stable," he said, adding a total of 127 persons were evacuated during the fire.

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